Max Frisch

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Max Frisch (approx. 1974)

Max Rudolf Frisch (* 15. May 1911 in Zurich , † 4. April 1991 ibid ) was a Swiss writer and architect . With plays such as Biedermann und die Brandstifter or Andorra as well as with his three great novels Stiller , Homo faber and Mein Name sei Gantenbein , Frisch reached a wide audience and found its way into the school canon . He has also published radio plays, short stories and short prose textsas well as two literary diaries covering the periods 1946 to 1949 and 1966 to 1971 .

The young Max Frisch felt that bourgeois and artistic existence were incompatible and for a long time was unsure which way of life to choose. As a result, after dropping out of German studies and first literary work , Frisch completed a degree in architecture and worked as an architect for several years. It was only after the success of his novel Stiller that he finally decided to become a writer and left his family to devote himself entirely to writing.

The focus of Frisch's work is often the confrontation with oneself, whereby many of the problems raised are considered typical of postmodern people: Finding and asserting one's own identity, especially in the encounter with the firmly established images of others, construction of one's own biography, gender roles and its resolution as well as the question of what can be said with language at all. In the literary diary, which combines the autobiographical with fictional elements, Frisch finds a literary form that particularly suits him and in which he also reflects on his extensive travels. After living abroad for years, Frisch also became increasingly critical of his home country, Switzerland, on his return.


Parental home and school time

Max Frisch was born on May 15, 1911 in Zurich as the second son of the architect Franz Bruno Frisch and his wife Karolina Bettina Frisch (née Wildermuth). He had a half-sister from his father's first marriage, Emma Elisabeth (1899–1972), and a brother eight years older (1903–1978), named after his father Franz. The family lived in a modest way and the financial situation worsened when the father lost his job during the First World War . Frisch had hardly any emotional relationship with his father, but was very close to his mother.

During his time as a high school student (1924–1930) at the Zurich Realgymnasium, Frisch wrote his first pieces, which he tried unsuccessfully to perform and later destroyed. At high school he also got to know Werner Coninx , whose father owned a publishing house and whose knowledge of literature and philosophy gave Frisch numerous impulses over the course of their long-standing friendship.

Studied German and worked as a journalist

Main building of the University of Zurich , where Frisch studied German from 1930

In accordance with the wishes of his parents, who wanted to enable their children to study freely, Frisch began studying German at the University of Zurich in the 1930/31 winter semester . On the one hand, Frisch met professors here who impressed him and were able to put him in touch with publishers and newspapers, including Robert Faesi , writer and professor of modern and Swiss literature, and the Romanist Theophil Spoerri . On the other hand, he found that the academic curriculum could not provide him with the solid writing tools he had hoped the degree would provide. As a minor, Frisch took forensic psychology , from which he hoped to gain deeper insights into the core of human existence.

Frisch's first article in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) comes from May 1931. When his father died in March 1932, he concentrated increasingly on journalistic work in order to secure a livelihood for himself and his mother. This step is the subject of the essay What am I? , which is considered the actual start of his freelance work and already reveals a basic problem of the entire later work. In the following three years, over 100 journalistic and literary works were created, which largely focus on autobiographical self-exploration and the processing of private experiences, such as the separation from the 18-year-old actress Else Schebesta, with whom Frisch fell in love. Only a few of these texts were later included in the work edition. Even during its creation, the author himself sometimes had the impression that self-reflection was getting out of hand and tried to distract himself with physical work, for example at a student work colony in road construction in 1932.

From February to October 1933, Frisch fulfilled his wish to go on an extended trip abroad, which he financed through articles in the features section he wrote during the trip . For example, he reported on the ice hockey world championship in Prague for the NZZ . Further stations were Budapest , Belgrade , Sarajevo , Dubrovnik , Zagreb , Istanbul , Athens , Bari and Rome . Frisch's first novel, Jürg Reinhart , which appeared in 1934, was based on the experiences of this trip . The fictional character Jürg Reinhart is an alter ego of Frisch who tries to determine his position in life during a trip to the Balkans . Here he comes to the conclusion that he can only assure himself of his maturity through a “male act” and accomplishes this by granting the terminally ill daughter of his pension landlady active euthanasia . In this way, Frisch took up the concept of “ euthanasia ”, which was being discussed worldwide at the time , without understanding the ethical and political consequences that a few years later resulted from the practical implementation of the National Socialists .

In addition to his work for various newspapers, Frisch continued to take courses at the university until 1934. In the summer semester of 1934 he met Käte Rubensohn, who was three years his junior and with whom he had a love affair in the years that followed. As a German Jew , Rubensohn emigrated from Berlin in order to be able to continue studying. When Frisch traveled to the German Reich for the first time in 1935 , he took a critical stance on anti-Semitism in his small diary of a German trip , but expressed his admiration about the “ racial ” exhibition Miracles of Life by Herbert Bayer . Frisch was able to publish his first apolitical novels without any problems at the Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt , which was subject to National Socialist censorship. It was not until the 1940s that Frisch began to develop a critical political awareness. This hesitant development is partly explained today by the conservative climate at the University of Zurich, where individual professors even cultivated sympathy for Hitler and Mussolini . He later explained self-critically that Frisch had such sympathies foreign to him with his love for Käte Rubensohn.

Turning to architecture and starting a family

Main building of the ETH Zurich , where Frisch studied architecture from 1936

Feeling that he had not learned a real profession while studying German, Frisch was looking for a non-literary but also creative alternative to journalism. Equipped with a scholarship from his friend Werner Coninx, he began studying architecture at the ETH Zurich in 1936 . Käte Rubensohn had also encouraged him to take this step. In the same year she withdrew her consent to a marriage that had already been registered with the registry office, because she did not want to be married out of pity because of her insecure situation as a German Jew in Switzerland. Before that, it had long been Frisch who opposed the marriage for which he did not believe he was made. The two separated in autumn 1937, and in the spring of the following year Rubensohn moved to Basel .

In 1937, Frisch's second novel was published, Answer from Silence , which he later gave a devastating judgment. He takes up the subject of the “male deed”, but now expressly takes a stand for a bourgeois life plan. Frisch also drew private consequences from this attitude: he had the job title “writer” deleted from his passport and burned all previous writings. Frisch's resolution to give up writing, however, was thwarted in 1938 by winning the Conrad Ferdinand Meyer Prize , which was endowed with at least 3,000 Swiss francs : his annual scholarship at that time was 4,000 francs.

At the beginning of the Second World War in 1939, Frisch became a gunners in the Swiss Army and had done a total of 650 days of active service by 1945. During this time he began to write again and published his notes in 1939 under the title From the diary of a soldier in the magazine Atlantis (in the following year also as a book under the title Leaves from the Bread Bag ). It expresses a largely uncritical attitude towards the life of soldiers and the position of Switzerland in World War II, which Frisch edited and also revised in his service book in 1974 .

After Frisch's architecture diploma in the summer of 1940, his teacher William Dunkel offered him a permanent position in his architecture office, so that at the end of 1940, Frisch was able to move into his first own apartment. In Dunkel's studio he also met the architect Gertrud von Meyenburg , whom he married on July 30, 1942. With her he had two daughters (Ursula, * 1943, and Charlotte, * 1949) and a son (Hans Peter, * 1944). His daughter Ursula, later Ursula Priess , reflected on her difficult relationship with her father in her book Sturz durch alle Spiegel , published in 2009 .

10-meter diving platform at the sports pool of the Letzigraben outdoor pool
Freshly designed restaurant pavilion in the Letzigraben outdoor pool

In 1943, Frisch won the architecture competition of the city of Zurich for the construction of the Letzigraben open- air swimming pool (also known colloquially as the Letzibad or Max-Frisch-Bad ) from among 65 submitted works . He then opened his own architecture office and temporarily employed two draftsmen. However, due to a shortage of materials due to the war, construction could not begin until 1947. The pool, which opened in 1949, is now a listed building and was largely restored to its original condition in 2006/07 as part of a complete renovation. Bad Letzigraben is Frisch's only public building and, with its design qualities, is considered a reference design from an architectural-historical point of view.

In total, Frisch designed a good dozen buildings, of which, in addition to the outdoor pool, only two single-family houses were implemented for his brother Franz and a country house for the hair tonic manufacturer K. F. Ferster. The latter filed high claims for damages against Frisch in court after he had changed the originally agreed dimensions of the staircase without consultation. Frisch retaliated by ascribing the job of a hair tonic manufacturer to the protagonist of his drama Biedermann und die Arsonstifter. Even during his work as an architect, Frisch usually only stayed in his office in the mornings. He continued to devote a large part of his time to writing.

Working for the theater

Even during his studies, Frisch regularly attended performances at the Schauspielhaus Zurich , which welcomed German exiles during the Nazi era and offered a top-class program. The dramaturge and later Vice Director Kurt Hirschfeld encouraged Frisch to work for the theater in 1944 and offered him support in implementing it. In his first play Santa Cruz (1944, premiered in 1946), the recently married Frisch asked how dreams and longings of the individual can be reconciled with married life. In the novel J'adore ce qui me brûle or Die Schwierigen published in 1944 , he had already emphasized the incompatibility of artistic and bourgeois existence and, in the further development of the protagonist of his first novel, described a failed love affair of the painter Jürg Reinhart. In 1945 he took up the problem again in the prose text Bin or Die Reise nach Peking .

The following two plays are under the impression of the war: Now they sing again (1945) raises the question of the personal guilt of soldiers who carry out inhuman orders and deals with it from the subjective perspective of those affected. The piece avoids undifferentiated evaluations and was also played on German stages in 1946/47. The NZZ, on the other hand, accused Frisch on the front page of "disguising" the terror of National Socialism and refused to print a reply from the author. The Great Wall of China (1946) explores the possibility that humanity could exterminate itself by means of the atom bomb, which has just been invented . The play sparked public discussion, but has largely been forgotten today compared to Friedrich Dürrenmatt's Die Physiker (1962) and Heinar Kipphardt's In the Case of J. Robert Oppenheimer (1964).

The collaboration with Hirschfeld enabled Frisch to make acquaintances that had a major influence on him: In 1946 he met Carl Zuckmayer and in 1947 the young Friedrich Dürrenmatt, with whom he had a long-standing friendship despite differences in his artistic self-image, but which also had a certain rivalry. In the same year, Frisch met Bertolt Brecht , whose work he admired and with whom he now regularly exchanged ideas about artistic issues. Brecht encouraged Frisch to do more pieces and pointed out the artist's social responsibility. Although Brecht's influence can be seen in Frisch's views on art theory and some practical work, Frisch is not one of Brecht's students. He retained an independent position, which was characterized in particular by skepticism towards the traditional formation of political camps. This is particularly evident in the play When the War Was Over, in which Frisch processed eyewitness accounts of the Red Army as an occupying power.

In April 1946, Frisch traveled to post-war Germany with Hirschfeld. In August 1948 he attended an international peace congress in Breslau , to which numerous intellectuals were invited who were supposed to contribute to the political mediation between East and West. However, since the hosts misused the congress as a propaganda platform and there was hardly any exchange between the guests, Frisch traveled on to Warsaw ahead of time in order to collect more independent impressions in his notebooks. Nevertheless, after his return, the NZZ assumed sympathy with communism and again refused to print a reply, so that Frisch terminated his collaboration with the newspaper. His participation in the congress had another consequence: The Swiss Federal Police dug up a fiche over Frisch and spied on him until almost the end of his life, see also the posthumous publication Ignorance as State Security? .

Breakthrough as a novelist and freelance writer

Max Frisch (1955)

From the 130 notebooks that Frisch created in the post-war period, the literary diary with Marion emerged in 1947 . Peter Suhrkamp encouraged Frisch to expand the concept further and gave concrete suggestions through personal feedback on the texts. In 1950 the newly founded Suhrkamp Verlag published the diary 1946–1949 , a mosaic of travel reports and autobiographical considerations, political and literary theoretical essays and literary sketches that anticipated Frisch's dramas and essential motifs of his narrative work in the coming decade. Critics attested to the work that it gave new impulses to the genre of the literary diary and that its author had “caught up with the European level”. However, commercial success did not begin until the new edition in 1958.

1951 followed the drama Graf Öderland, already outlined in his diary , about a public prosecutor who is bored of bourgeois life and goes in search of absolute freedom, murdering with an ax anyone who stands in the way of this goal. Öderland ends up as the leader of a revolutionary freedom movement and receives power and responsibility through this position, which make him as unfree as he was at the beginning of the play. The drama was a clear failure with both audiences and critics, it was often misunderstood as a criticism of ideology or condemned as nihilistic. Frisch, on the other hand, regarded Count Öderland as one of his most important works and reworked it for further performances in 1956 and 1961, without achieving a much more approving reception.

With a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation , Frisch traveled to the USA and Mexico between April 1951 and May 1952 . During this time he worked under the title What are you doing with love on a predecessor of the later novel Stiller as well as on the play Don Juan or Die Liebe zur Geometrie , which premiered in May 1953 in Zurich and Berlin at the same time. In this play he returns to the theme of the conflict between marital duties and intellectual interests: the main character of the play is a parodied Don Juan , who is primarily interested in geometric studies and the game of chess and therefore gives women only an episodic place in his life . However, after his callous behavior has claimed numerous deaths, he falls in love with a former prostitute.

In 1954, Frisch's novel Stiller appeared , the protagonist of which, Anatol Ludwig Stiller, initially claimed to be someone else, but was forced to re-recognize his original identity as a Swiss sculptor in the course of legal proceedings. Until her death, he then lived again with the wife he had left in his previous life. The novel, which combines elements of the detective novel with an authentic-looking, diary-like narrative style, became a commercial success and brought Frisch widespread recognition as a writer. At the same time, the critics praised the complex construction and perspective as well as the connection of philosophical insights with autobiographical experiences. The thesis of the incompatibility of art and family reappeared in Stiller . After its appearance, Frisch, who had numerous love affairs during his marriage, took the consequences, separated from his family and moved into his own small apartment in a farmhouse in Männedorf . After writing had been his main source of income for several years in a row, he also closed his architecture office in January 1955 to work entirely as a freelance writer.

In late 1955, Frisch began work on the novel Homo faber , which was published in 1957. It is about an engineer who, with his purely technical-rational worldview, fails in real life. Homo faber entered the school canon and became one of Frisch's most widely read books. The routes of the protagonist reflect Frisch's own travels during the time the novel was written. They took him to Italy in 1956 , then, after a ship passage across the Atlantic, to the United States, Mexico and Cuba and the following year to Greece .

Success at the theater and relationship with Ingeborg Bachmann

At the rehearsals for Biedermann and the arsonists with Oskar Wältin in 1958

The theater play Biedermann und die Brandstifter , premiered in 1958, established Frisch as a world-class playwright. It is about a petty bourgeois who gives hawkers shelter and, despite clear signs, does not intervene to prevent them from burning his house down. The first sketches were made in 1948 under the impression of the Communist takeover in Czechoslovakia and appeared in the diary from 1946–1949 . In 1953, the Bavarian Radio broadcast a radio play version . Frisch's intention was to shake the viewer's confidence that he would react more prudently in a similar dangerous situation. When the Swiss audience initially took the piece as a mere warning against communism , he felt misunderstood. For the German premiere, he therefore added an "aftermath" that was now understood as a warning against National Socialism and was later deleted.

Rehearsals for Andorra at the Schauspielhaus Zurich in 1961

Frisch had also already sketched the following drama Andorra in his diary : It deals with the power that a preconceived image of fellow human beings has over the person concerned. Its main character is the illegitimate child Andri, whose father pretends to be a Jew. As a result, Andri has to deal with anti-Semitic prejudices and over time takes on traits that are “typically Jewish” in his environment. The subject was particularly close to Frisch's heart, so that he wrote five versions of the play within three years before it was premiered in late 1961. Although it was successful with both critics and audiences, the piece Frisch also brought the accusation of too careless handling of recent historical reality, especially after its premiere in the USA (1963). In the fact that the prejudiced dealings with others in Andorra is presented as a general human error, some Germans saw a relativization of their own guilt.

In July 1958, Frisch met the writer Ingeborg Bachmann . After living separately from his wife and children since 1954, he officially divorced his first wife Gertrud in 1959. Although Bachmann refused a written marriage proposal, Frisch followed her to Rome in 1960 , where he kept the center of his life until 1965. The relationship is considered intense, but also problematic for both sides: Frisch, who always openly admitted his sexual infidelity, reacted with strong jealousy to his new partner, who demanded the same rights for herself. His novel Mein Name sei Gantenbein , published in 1964, is - like Bachmann's novel Malina later - as a literary reaction to the relationship that broke up in Uetikon in the winter of 1962/63 . The novel deals with the end of a marriage in a complex what-if style: the identities and biographies of the main characters change, as do details of married life. The narrator tries alternative stories on "like clothes" and yet comes to the conclusion that none of them fully live up to his experience. Here Frisch takes up again the view expressed in the diary 1946–1949 that the essential for language remains unspeakable.

Frisch designed the piece Biographie: Ein Spiel with similar means . Disappointed by the misunderstandings about Biedermann and the arsonists and Andorra , Frisch turned away from the parabolic form and looked for a new form of expression, which he called the "dramaturgy of permutation ". At the center of the play is a behavioral scientist who is given the opportunity to lead his life again and ultimately cannot make any significantly different decisions. The collaboration with the director Rudolf Noelte failed in the fall of 1967, a week before the announced premiere. But even the implementation under Leopold Lindtberg , which was performed in 1968 , did not satisfy the author, the critics or the audience. Frisch had wanted to call on the audience to make full use of the possibilities for change in the awareness of their limitations, and ultimately found the piece on stage to be too fatalistic itself . It was not until eleven years after this renewed disappointment that Frisch returned to the theater.

Second marriage to Marianne Oellers and frequent travel

Max Frisch (1967)
Frisch's house in Berzona

In the summer of 1962, Frisch, who was 51 at the time, met Marianne Oellers (* 1939), a 28-year-old student of German and Romance languages. In 1964, the two of them moved into a joint apartment in Rome, and in autumn 1965 they moved into a lavishly renovated house in Berzona in Ticino . As a “social experiment”, the couple lived from 1966 in a second home in the Lochergut housing estate , but soon swapped it for an apartment in Küsnacht on Lake Zurich . The two married at the end of 1968.

Marianne Oellers accompanied her future husband on numerous trips: in 1963 they attended the American premieres of Biedermann and Andorra , in 1965 they traveled to Jerusalem for the award of the Man's Freedom Prize , where Frisch gave the first official German-language speech after the end of the Second World War. In an effort to come to an independent judgment about life behind the “ Iron Curtain ”, they traveled to the Soviet Union in 1966 . On the occasion of a writers' congress, they returned two years later and met, among others, the GDR writers Christa and Gerhard Wolf , with whom they became friends from now on. After the wedding a trip to Japan followed in 1969 and extended stays in the USA from 1970–72. Many impressions of these trips are given in the diary 1966–1971 .

After returning from the USA, the Frisch couple took a second home in Berlin in 1972 in the Friedenau district , which increasingly became the center of their lives and enabled intensive and stimulating contact with the intellectuals there from 1973-79. Excerpts from a diary from this period will only appear in 2014 under the title Aus dem Berliner Journal . In his Berlin years, Frisch's critical attitude towards Switzerland intensified, which is reflected in works such as William Tell for School (1970) and the Dienstbüchlein (1974), but also in the speech Switzerland as Home? , which Frisch held in January 1974 on the occasion of the presentation of the Grand Schiller Prize of the Swiss Schiller Foundation. Although he had no political ambitions, Frisch harbored sympathy for ideas of social democracy . Out of personal ties with Helmut Schmidt , he accompanied him on his trip to China in 1975 and gave a speech at the SPD party conference in 1977 .

In April 1974, on a reading tour in the United States, Frisch had an affair with the 32-year-old American Alice Locke-Carey. He took this encounter in the village of Montauk on Long Island as the starting point for the story of the same name published in 1975 , which became his most autobiographical book and tells of all of his love affairs to date, including his marriage to Marianne and her affair with the American writer Donald Barthelme . On the occasion of the publication, there was an open dispute between the spouses about the relationship between the public and the private and, as a result, increasing alienation. In 1979 the marriage was divorced.

Late work and age

Max Frisch (approx. 1974)

After Frisch had experienced serious health problems in 1978, was founded in October 1979 with the participation of the Max Frisch Foundation, which was entrusted with the administration of his estate. Its most important facility is the Max Frisch Archive , which is located at ETH Zurich and has been accessible to the public since 1983.

Age and transience now increasingly moved into the center of Frisch's work. In 1976 he began work on the play Triptychon , set in the realm of the dead , which was broadcast in a radio play version in April 1979 and premiered in Lausanne in October of the same year . A performance in Frankfurt failed due to the resistance of the ensemble there, which rejected the piece as too apolitical. Frisch considered the premiere at the Burgtheater in Vienna to be a success, but the audience reacted cautiously to the complexly constructed work.

In 1980 Frisch made contact with Alice Locke-Carey again and lived with her until 1984, alternately in New York and Berzona. In the United States, Frisch was now an esteemed writer, including an honorary doctorate from Bard College in 1980 and from the City University of New York in 1982 . The translation of Man Appears in the Holocene was named Best Short Story of 1980 by critics in the New York Times . The text tells of a retired industrialist who suffers from the loss of his own intellectual abilities and the dwindling of human relationships. In this text, Frisch tried to be authentic, but resisted an overly autobiographical interpretation. After completing the work published in 1979, Frisch experienced an inhibition to write, which he only overcame in the autumn of 1981 with the prose text Bluebeard .

Staatsschutzfiche about Max Frisch (1948–1990)

In 1984 Frisch returned to Zurich, where he lived until his death. In 1983 he began his relationship with his last partner Karin Pilliod, with whom he took part in the Moscow "Forum for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World" in 1987. After Frisch's death, Pilliod reported that he had had a love affair with her mother Madeleine Seigner-Besson in the years 1952-1958. In March 1989, Frisch was diagnosed with incurable colon cancer. In the same year, as part of the Fichen affair , he learned that, like many other Swiss citizens, he had been spied on by the authorities since his participation in the international peace congress in 1948. On August 1, 1990, he was given (censored) access to the official records and, before the end of 1990, wrote the comment Ignorance as State Security? In which he took on individual file sharing position: His fiche is "a document of ignorance, stupidity, provincialism". The text was only published as a book by Suhrkamp in 2015.

Memorial plaque in Berzona

Frisch arranged the circumstances of his burial, but was still involved in the discussion about the abolition of the Swiss army and published the prose text Switzerland without an army? A palaver and a stage version of it, Jonas and his veteran . Max Frisch died on April 4, 1991, in the middle of preparations for his 80th birthday. The funeral service took place on April 9, 1991 in St. Peter . His friends Peter Bichsel and Michel Seigner spoke . Karin Pilliod read out a statement, but no clergyman had a say. Frisch was an agnostic who found any creed superfluous. Max Frisch's ashes were scattered in a fire at a commemorative celebration of his friends in Ticino; a plaque on the cemetery wall in Berzona commemorates him.

Literary work


The diary as a literary form

The diary is considered the prose form typical of Frisch . This does not mean a private diary, the publication of which would serve the voyeuristic satisfaction of the readership, nor a "journal intime" in the sense of Henri-Frédéric Amiel , but rather a literary portrayal of consciousness in the tradition of James Joyce and Alfred Döblin , which alongside the Description of real facts Fictionality accepted as an equal means of establishing the truth. After resolving to give up writing, Frisch had begun to keep a war diary under the impression of an existential threat from military service, which was published in 1940 under the title Leaves from the Bread Sack . In contrast to his earlier work, the literary results in the form of a diary could exist in front of their author. In this way, Frisch found the form that determined his further prose work. He published two more literary diaries from the periods 1946-1949 and 1966-1971. The typescript for a third diary, begun in 1982, was discovered in 2009 in the files of Frisch's secretary. Until then, it was assumed that Frisch had destroyed this work at the age of 70 because he no longer felt up to its creative design due to an increasing loss of his short-term memory. When the typescript was published in 2010, due to its fragmentary nature, it was named Drafts for a Third Diary .

Many of Frisch's central works are already sketched in the diary 1946–1949 , including the dramas Count Öderland , Andorra , Don Juan and Biedermann and the arsonists , but also elements of the novel Stiller . At the same time, the novels Stiller and Homo faber as well as the story Montauk are created as diaries of their respective protagonists; Sybille Heidenreich points out that the open narrative form of the novel Mein Name sei Gantenbein is closely based on the diary form. Rolf Kieser sees in the fact that the collected works, published with the help of Frisch in 1976, are not sorted according to text type, but strictly chronologically, even transferring the diary form as a scheme to the entire work.

Frisch himself took the view that the diary form was the only prose form that suited him and that he could not choose it any more than the form of his nose. Nevertheless, there were attempts from outside parties to justify Frisch's choice of text form: Friedrich Dürrenmatt sees it as the “saving idea” that allowed Frisch im Stiller to “turn himself into a figure, a novel” without “ to succumb to embarrassment ”. In particular, he sees in the character James Larkin White, who is in reality identical to Stiller, but always denies this in his notes about Stiller, the embodiment of the writer, who cannot avoid “thinking himself” in his work, this in the interest but must constantly hide the literary quality of his result. Rolf Kieser points out that the diary form most clearly takes into account Frisch's view that thinking is only correct for a certain point of view and context and that it is impossible to use language to create a complete picture of the world or even just a single life.

Narrative work

Dust jacket of the first edition of the novel Stiller

Although Max Frisch celebrated his first successes in the theater and also later often emphasized that he actually came from the theater, his most important literary forms, in addition to the diary, were primarily the novel and the lengthy narrative. In later years in particular, Frisch turned away from the stage and turned to prose. According to his own account, he felt more comfortable under the subjective demands of storytelling than under the objective demands that work at the theater placed on him.

Frisch's prose work can be roughly divided into three creative phases. His early work until 1943 was written exclusively in prose. It contained numerous short sketches and essays, the novels Jürg Reinhart. A summer journey of fate and its sequel J'adore ce qui me brûle or The Difficult and the story Answer from the Silence . All three are autobiographical , all revolve around the young author's decision between a bourgeois and an artistic existence and allow their protagonists to find different ways out of Frisch's personal dilemma: in the development of autonomy in the debut, which is reminiscent of a classic Bildungsroman , in the failure of the Life plan in its continuation, in the rejection of artistic realization in the narrative. With his second story, Bin or Die Reise nach Peking , Frisch arrived in the middle-class milieu in 1945 and from this point of view already formulated the longing for an escape. In retrospect, Frisch distanced himself from his early work, calling the first novel a “very youthful novel”, the following story a “very epigonal story”, the second story “Escape literature”.

Frisch's main prose work consists of the three novels Stiller , Homo faber and Mein Name sei Gantenbein . Among these works, according to Alexander Stephan Stiller, “is generally regarded as Frisch's most important and most complex book”, both in terms of its form and its content. What the three novels have in common is the theme of identity and the relationship between the sexes. Here takes Homo faber a complementary position to Stiller one. If Stiller had resisted the stipulations by others, Walter Faber, the protagonist from Homo faber , committed himself to the identity of the rational technician. A third variation on the theme is Mein Name sei Gantenbein , the title of which is the reversal of the introductory sentence from Stiller . Instead of “I am not quieter!” It now says “I introduce myself”. Instead of looking for a fixed identity, the focus is on playing with identities, trying out biographies and stories.

The three stories from Frisch's late work Montauk , The Man Appears in the Holocene and Bluebeard are also often combined in studies. In terms of content, all three texts are characterized by a thematic turn to death, a life balance. Formally, they are based on the motto of a reduction in language and action elements. In the three stories, Volker Hage saw "an underlying unity, not in the sense of a trilogy , [...] but in the sense of a harmonic chord . The three books complement each other and yet are independent units. [...] All three books have the tenor of the balance sheet, the conclusion - right down to the form that only allows the most essential things: tight, buttoned up. "Frisch restricted:" The last three stories have only one thing in common: that they are in the testing of the modes of representation possible for me go further than the work before. "


Dust jacket of the first edition by Biedermann and the Arsonists

Manfred Jurgensen divided Max Frisch's dramas up to the beginning of the 1960s into three groups: the early war plays, the poetic plays such as Don Juan or Die Liebe zur Geometry, and the dialectical plays. Above all with the latter, namely the parables Biedermann and the Arsonists , dubbed by Frisch as a " didactic piece without teaching", and Andorra Frisch celebrated his greatest stage successes. They are among the most successful German-language theater pieces. Still, Frisch remained dissatisfied with the misunderstandings that had accompanied her recording. In a conversation with Heinz Ludwig Arnold he explicitly opposed the parable form: "I simply found that the form of the parabola forced me to deliver a message that I actually didn't have." From the 1960s onwards Freshly stepped back from the theater, his following plays Biography: A Game and Triptych became less political, but also no longer achieved the public success of the earlier works. It was not until shortly before his death that Frisch returned with Jonas and his veteran , the theater version of Switzerland without an army? A palaver , back to the political message on stage.

For Klaus Müller-Salget, most of Frisch's plays had in common that they do not depict realistic situations on the stage, but are thought games that span time and space. Historical and literary figures appear in The Great Wall of China, and the dead in triptychs . In biography: A game is corrected retrospectively, Santa Cruz and Graf Öderland play in the dreamlike or in the fairytale morality . Typical are sparse, reduced stage sets, breaks such as two-part stages, a choir or direct addressing of the audience. Again and again the play reminds the audience that it is theater, that it is taking place on a stage. In the style of Brecht's epic theater , the viewer should not identify with what is happening on the stage, but should be stimulated to their own thoughts by what is represented. In contrast to Brecht, Frisch does not want to give the viewer a given insight, but leaves him the freedom of his own interpretation.

Frisch himself admitted that he was most fascinated by the theater work in the first rehearsals when a play had not yet been determined but was open in its possibilities. Hellmuth saw Karasek Frisch's plays also dominated by his distrust of form, which is expressed, for example, in Don Juan or The Love of Geometry in the disclosure of theatrical means. Frisch demonstrate the unbelievable nature of the theater, he strives for its transparency. There is no desire for the theatrical effect, as is the case with Dürrenmatt, for example, the effects are based on doubts and skeptical insights. Effects arise from lack of words, silence or misunderstandings. Where Dürrenmatt's plays took the worst possible turn, Frisch's dramas often ended with a dramaturgical return to their beginning; the fate of its protagonists is to have no fate.

Style and language

Frisch's style changed in different phases of his work. While his early work was still heavily influenced by Albin Zollinger and his poetic metaphor , not free from epigonal lyricism, in retrospect, Frisch distanced himself from supposedly “false poetization”. His later work was characterized by a much tighter, more unpretentious style, to which Frisch explained: "In general, I write very spoken". Walter Schenker saw Zurich German , with which Frisch grew up, as his basic language. Nonetheless, High German , which he had got to know primarily as a written and literary language, became the preferred form of expression in his works , although he repeatedly used dialectic expressions as a stylistic device.

Frisch was marked by a fundamental skepticism about language . In Stiller he has his protagonist exclaim: “I have no language for my reality!” In the diary 1946–1949 he continued: “What is important: the unspeakable, the white between the words, and these words always talk about incidental matters, which we don't really mean. Our concern, the real one, can at best be paraphrased, and that means quite literally: one writes around it. You surround it. Statements are made that never contain our actual experience, which remains unspeakable; [...] and the real, the unspeakable appears at best as a tension between these statements. ”Werner Stauffacher saw in Frisch's language“ a language of searching for inexpressible human reality, the language of seeing and exploring ”without actually revealing the secret behind it .

Frisch transferred the principles of epic theater Bertolt Brecht into both his dramatic and narrative work. As early as 1948 he concluded a consideration of the alienation effect with the words: “It would be tempting to apply all these ideas to the narrative writer as well; Alienation effect with linguistic means, the playfulness in the narrative, the open-artistic, which is perceived by most German readers as 'alienating' and flatly rejected because it is 'too artistic', because it prevents empathy, does not produce what is carried away, destroys the illusion, namely the illusion that the story told 'really' happened ”. In his novel Mein Name sei Gantenbein in particular , Frisch broke with the closed continuum of action in favor of the representation of variants and possibilities. The play Biography: A Game raised the rehearsal to a dramatic principle. Even in Stiller , Frisch transferred the form of the fragmentary , episodic narration of his literary diary into a novel with the embedded stories . In his late work, Frisch radicalized the assembly technique further up to the collage of texts, notes and images in The Man Appears in the Holocene .

Themes and motifs

Max Frisch's literary work is characterized by a number of fundamental themes and motifs that either stand at the center of a particular creative period or are repeatedly taken up and varied throughout the entire work.

Portrait and Identity

Max Frisch with a portrait (1967)

In his diary 1946–1949 , Frisch formulated a central thought that permeates his work: “You shouldn't make a portrait for yourself, it is said, of God. It should also apply in this sense: God as the living in every human being, that which cannot be grasped. It is a sin that, as it is committed against us, we commit again almost without ceasing - except when we love. "Frisch related the biblical commandment to the relationship between people. Only in love is man ready to accept his counterpart with all its changeability, the possibilities inherent in him. Without love, people capture their counterparts and the entire world in ready-made images. An image frozen into a cliché becomes the sin of man against himself and against the other. In Frisch's work, Hans Jürg Lüthi distinguished between two categories of dealing with the portrait: in the first, the portrait is experienced as fate. This includes the play Andorra , in which Andri is assigned the portrait of a Jew by the Andorrans, as well as the novel Homo faber , in which Walter Faber remains trapped in the portrait of the technician. The second category addresses the liberation from the portrait, for example in Stiller or Mein Name sei Gantenbein , in which the main characters create new identities in order to escape pre-fabricated images.

In contrast to the external image, there is human identity . For Frisch, every person has their own unique individuality , which draws its justification from itself and has to be realized. It "takes place in human life or fails in the individual ego, nowhere else." The process of self-acceptance and the subsequent self-realization is an act of freedom, the possibility of choice: "The dignity of man, it seems to me, consists in choice." The self-choice is not a one-off act, but the real self behind the portraits has to be recognized and chosen again and again. The fear of missing out on the ego and thus missing out on life already played a central role in Frisch's early work. Unsuccessful self-choice leads to an alienation of people from themselves and from the world. Only in the limited period of a real life can human existence be fulfilled, since its redemption in the state of the endless immutability of death is excluded. In Stiller , Frisch formulated the criterion of a real life as “that one becomes identical with himself. Otherwise he has never been! "

Relationship between the sexes

Rehearsals for Andorra at the Schauspielhaus Zurich in 1961

According to Claus Reschke, the male protagonists in Frisch's work can be traced back to the common basic type of a modern intellectual : egocentric , weak decision-making, uncertain about their self-image, they often misunderstand their actual situation. They are agnostics , lacking real devotion in their relationships with other people, so they lead the isolated life of a loner . As they develop deeper relationships with women, they lose their emotional balance, become insecure, possessive, and jealous of their partner. Again and again they fall into traditional gender roles and mask their sexual insecurities with chauvinism . At the same time, her relationship with women is overshadowed by feelings of guilt . In relation to women, they seek “real life”, the completion and fulfillment of themselves in a relationship that is free from conflict and paralyzing repetition that never loses the element of novelty and spontaneity.

Mona Knapp also attributed the female characters in Frisch's work to a stereotype . In the texts, which are centered on their male protagonists, they have a functional, structural function and prove to be interchangeable. Often they are glorified as “great” and “wonderful”, are apparently emancipated and superior to the man. In fact, their motivation is mostly characterized by pettiness: faithlessness, greed and lack of feeling. In Frisch's later work, the female figures become increasingly one-dimensional, film-like and show no inner ambivalence. Often the female figure is reduced to the threat to male identity or to its role as an object of infidelity, it becomes the catalyst for the success or failure of the male existence and only provides the male protagonist with an opportunity for self-reflection. Mostly in Frisch's works the activity in partner relationships starts with the woman, the man remains passive, waiting and reflective. Apparently women are loved by men, but in reality they are feared and despised.

Karin Struck saw Frisch's male protagonist ultimately dependent on the female characters. The women remained strangers to her. The men, on the other hand, are related to parting from the start: they cannot love because they are fleeing from themselves, their failure and their fear. Often images of femininity mix with those of death, for example in Frisch's Don Juan version: "The more blooming it appears, the woman reminds me of death." Death can be physically experienced: her fear of women corresponds to the fear of death, the reaction to the relationship with the woman is flight and a feeling of guilt.

Late work: Transience and Death

Although death is a constant motif in Frisch's work, it is overlaid by identity and relationship problems in the early and main works. Only with his later work does it become a central question. Frisch's second published diary introduces the topic. A key phrase in the 1966–1971 diary is a quotation from Montaigne that is repeated several times : “This is how I dissolve and get lost.” The focus of the records is aging as a private and social problem. Although political demands are still being made, social ties take a back seat, and dealing with one's own ego becomes central. In its fragmentation and formal reduction, the diary sets the style that, in addition to a basic melancholy mood, remains decisive for the following works.

The Montauk story also deals with aging. The autobiographical protagonist's lack of a future directs his gaze to the processing of the past and the desire to experience the present. In the play Triptych , death itself is depicted, albeit with a metaphorical reference to life. Death reflects the numbness of the human community and thus becomes an instruction for shaping life. The story Man appears in the Holocene describes the process of dying an old man as entering into nature. According to Cornelia Steffahn, Frisch does not draw a uniform picture of death in his late work, rather the works reflect the process of his own examination of the topic and change to the same extent as Frisch himself ages. He worked through philosophical influences from Montaigne, Søren Kierkegaard , Lars Gustafsson to Epicurus .

Political commitment

In Switzerland without an army? Frisch took
a palaver in favor of abolishing the Swiss army

While Frisch's early literary works were still largely apolitical and he showed himself to be influenced by the model of Switzerland and intellectual national defense in the military diary , for example , his political awareness changed in the post-war period. In particular, Frisch now denounced the separation between culture and politics, and in 1948 he noted in his diary: "Anyone who does not deal with politics has already taken the political partisanship that he would like to save: he serves the ruling party." According to Sonja Rüegg, Frisch's aesthetic was characterized by a fundamentally critical and anti-ideological attitude, the writer's self-image as an emigrant within society, resistance to the ruling order, taking sides not for a class but for the individual, the emphasis on questioning as well as the adoption of modern forms of literature.

Frisch's social criticism also sparked off in particular in his home country, Switzerland . In his speech on the awarding of the Great Schiller Prize, he confessed Switzerland as home? : " I am Swiss (not just the holder of a Swiss passport, born on Swiss territory, etc., but Swiss by profession)". But he also limited: “Home is not defined by comfort. Those who say home take more on themselves. ”Frisch's published examination of his homeland, the model and the special role of Switzerland ranged from the pamphlet achtung: Switzerland to the dismantling of the national epic of William Tell in William Tell for the school , in which the founding myth is portrayed as a story of coincidences, inadequacies as well as narrowness and opportunism. With the service book , Frisch settled his own past in the Swiss army , which he also mentioned in his last extensive text Switzerland without an army? A palaver questioned.

It was characteristic of Frisch's work that phases of strong political engagement alternated with phases of experience of ineffectiveness and withdrawal to private issues. Bettina Jaques-Bosch therefore saw the author oscillating between periods of criticism and melancholy, Hans Ulrich Probst located the late work “between resignation and republican age radicalism”. Frisch's last published sentences, a letter to Marco Solari in the weekly newspaper , were addressed to Switzerland once again: “In 1848 a great foundation of liberalism , today a depraved state under the centuries-old dominance of the civic bloc - and what still connects me to this state: a passport (which I will no longer need) ”.


Success as a writer

Frisch in 1958 when the City of Zurich was awarded the Literature Prize

For Max Frisch, his literary career was characterized by the fact that he did not experience a “striking breakthrough” and that success “came very slowly”. Nevertheless, his early publications also achieved some success. As early as the age of twenty it was published in various newspapers and magazines. With his debut, he found a renowned publisher in the Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt , which, when Frisch no longer wanted to publish in National Socialist Germany, was joined by the Swiss Atlantis Verlag and, from 1950, the Suhrkamp Verlag . His dramas were also accepted without delay and played at the important Zurich theater . Frisch's works were positively discussed in reviews, his early work was already awarded prizes, and only Count Öderland in 1951 was a “first failure on the stage”. Together with the first diary, however, the drama also introduced Frisch's attention beyond the Swiss borders, especially in the Federal Republic of Germany, where the novel Stiller became his first great success and made it possible for him to live as a professional writer.

Based on 3,000 copies sold in the first year, Stiller achieved a print run of millions as the first book from Suhrkamp Verlag due to the steadily growing demand. Another bestseller was the follow-up novel Homo faber with a total German-language circulation of four million copies by 1998. According to Volker Hage, Biedermann and the Brandstifter and Andorra are among the most successful German-language theater plays with 250 and 230 productions respectively up to 1996. Both dramas and Homo faber became a frequent subject in schools in the German-speaking area. With the exception of a few early works by Frisch, translations of every work were available up to 2002, mostly in around 10 languages, with Homo faber being the most frequently translated with 25 languages.

Position in Switzerland and abroad

Max Frisch and Friedrich Dürrenmatt in the Kronenhalle in Zurich 1961

Both inside and outside Switzerland, Frisch was often mentioned in the same breath as the second great Swiss writer of his generation, Friedrich Dürrenmatt , who was ten years his junior . Hans Mayer referred to them as " Dioscurs ", but also as " antagonists " dialectically linked to one another . The close friendship at the beginning of her literary career was later overshadowed by personal differences. In a final attempt at a reconciliation letter from Dürrenmatt on Frisch's 75th birthday, which went unanswered, Dürrenmatt found the formulation for their relationship: “We have become good friends”. In literary terms, too, the two were increasingly viewed differently, according to Heinz Ludwig Arnold Dürrenmatt in public - despite his narrative work - as the "born" playwright, Frisch - despite his stage successes - as a born narrator.

Both Frisch and Dürrenmatt contributed greatly to a revision of the dominant Swiss view of history in the 1960s through their questions about the unresolved Swiss past. Since the publication of the service log in 1974 at the latest , Frisch's reception in Switzerland has been very divided in terms of approval and vehement rejection. Given the alternatives of the models Dürrenmatt and Frisch, according to Janos Szábo, most of the young Swiss writers opted for Frisch and his role as an educator and enlightenment. In the 1960s, Frisch became the leading figure of a generation of Swiss authors, including Peter Bichsel , Jörg Steiner , Otto F. Walter and Adolf Muschg . In 1998, when Switzerland was presented as the guest country at the Frankfurt Book Fair , Andreas Isenschmid heard “a strangely familiar old tone sounding from all directions” in the books of a young generation of Swiss writers such as Ruth Schweikert , Daniel de Roulet , Silvio Huonder and Peter Stamm and often, almost page by page, strange echoes of Max Frisch's Stiller . "

The works of the Swiss Max Frisch also played a central role in the Federal Republic of Germany, Heinrich Vormweg described Stiller and Homo faber as "[z] two of the most characteristic and exemplary novels of the German-language literature of the fifties". In the GDR, extensive editions of Frisch's prose and dramas were published in the 1980s, but without any more intensive literary studies of Frisch's work. Translations of Frisch's works were more easily available in other socialist countries, which Frisch himself attributed to the fact that in the Soviet Union, for example, it was officially judged that his works represent “symptoms of illness in a capitalist society” that “do not exist in a society with nationalized means of production “Be. Despite some ideologically motivated criticism of her “individualism”, “pessimism” or “modernism”, Frisch's works were lively translated and published in the USSR and discussed in around 150 articles. Frisch was also successful in his temporary adopted home, the United States. It was positively noted by the critics that the actions take place repeatedly in America and that the author is free from “European arrogance”.

Importance and Influence

According to Jürgen H. Petersen, Frisch's stage work had little influence on other playwrights. Even his special form of the literary diary found no imitators. On the other hand, the novels Stiller and Mein Name had Gantenbein become literary models both in their subject matter of the question of identity and in their literary design, in which personal identity is not represented by description or interior views, but by invented stories. Thinking about Christa T. by Christa Wolf and Malina by Ingeborg Bachmann are often associated with this stylistic influence . Other influenced authors are Peter Härtling and Dieter Kühn . Max Frisch himself also became the subject of literature. In 1983 , Wolfgang Hildesheimer wrote the communications to Max about the state of affairs and other things . In 1975, Uwe Johnson put together a collection of Frisch quotes under the title Max Frisch Stich-Words . In 2007 Gottfried Honegger published eleven portrait sketches and fourteen texts in memory of his friend.

Addressing Max Frisch, Adolf Muschg summarized: “Your position in literary history: how do you describe it? You were not a formal innovator; You also did not - in honor of the identity problem - make talk of yourself through an unprecedented topic. I think you made an epoch through something both inconspicuous and fundamental: a new ethos (and pathos) of attempt . Your books put the literary test on an example of the imagination ”. Marcel Reich-Ranicki was closer to Frisch's works than those of other authors of his generation: “Unlike Dürrenmatt or Böll , Grass or Uwe Johnson , Frisch wrote about the complexes and conflicts of intellectuals , and he kept turning to us, the intellectuals from the bourgeois educated class. Like no other, he saw through and recognized our mentality ”. Friedrich Dürrenmatt admired in his colleague “the boldness with which he proceeds from the very subjective. [...] Fresh is always the case. His case is the case. ”In his last letter to Frisch, he coined the phrase that Frisch made“ his case to the world ”in his works.


According to Alexander J. Seiler , Max Frisch had a largely “hapless relationship” with film, although his style was often reminiscent of cinematic means. Seiler explained this with the fact that Frisch's work endeavors to express "the white between the words", the implementation of which in film images can mostly only be a copy. Already in the diary 1946–1949 is found under the title The Harlequin. Draft for a film, one of Frisch's early preoccupations with the film genre. The first practical experiences, however, were failed projects: Frisch got out of the film SOS - Gletscherpilot from 1959, his design for Wilhelm Tell (Castles in Flames) from 1960 was rejected and the film was made completely against his intentions. The film adaptation of an episode from Mein Name sei Gantenbein planned under the title Zurich - Transit in 1965 failed first because of differences with the director Erwin Leiser , then because of the illness of his successor Bernhard Wicki . In 1992 it was made into a film by Hilde Bechert.

The novels Stiller and Homo faber were given several film options, the latter to Anthony Quinn , but the realizations failed. Although Frisch's dramas were often filmed in television productions, the first adaptations of his prose were not made until Georg Radanowicz ( Das Unglück according to the diary sketch sketch of a misfortune , 1975), Richard Dindo ( Max Frisch, Journal I-III based on the story Montauk , 1981 ) and Krzysztof Zanussi ( Bluebeard based on the story of the same name, 1985). A few months after Frisch's death, Volker Schlöndorff's film version Homo Faber was the first major production to hit cinemas. Frisch had still worked on the script, but the film received no positive response from the criticism. In 1992, the Holocene , Heinz Bütler's and Manfred Eicher's film adaptation of Man appears in the Holocene , won the special jury award at the Locarno International Film Festival .

Volker Schlöndorff's 2017 feature film Return to Montauk is inspired by Frisch's autobiographical story Montauk and is dedicated to the memory of his friend. In the same year, Frisch's brief appearance in The Visit (1964), a film adaptation of the play The Visit of the Old Lady , first became known to the public. Both Frisch and director Wicki had remained silent about the background of the cameo in the film adaptation of his friend and rival Dürrenmatt.

Awards and honors

Max Frisch on the 20 franc - commemorative coin of Switzerland 2011

In memory of Max Frisch, the city of Zurich awards the 1998 Max Frisch Prize .

Various events took place on Max Frisch's 100th birthday in 2011, including an exhibition in Frisch's hometown of Zurich and an exhibition in the Literaturhaus Munich and the Museo Onsernonese in Loco . Max-Frisch-Platz at Zurich Oerlikon train station was opened in 2016. In memory of Max Frisch, a train composition of the SBB type RABDe 500 was named after him.

Works (selection)

Original editions

Short stories and novels


Essays and other prose works

  • Attention: Switzerland (A pamphlet , together with Lucius Burckhardt and Markus Kutter ), Handschin, Basel 1955
  • Public as a partner (speeches and essays). Suhrkamp ( edition suhrkamp , es 209), Frankfurt am Main 1967
  • Memories of Brecht (= first separate edition). Friedenauer Presse, Berlin 1968
  • Wilhelm Tell for the school . With old illustrations. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1971, ISBN 978-3-518-36502-1 .
  • Service booklet . Suhrkamp (as paperback, st 205), Frankfurt am Main 1974
  • Stitch words . Selected by Uwe Johnson. One-time edition for the Suhrkamp Book Week in September 1975. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1975
  • We hope. Speech on the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade 1976 . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1976
  • Demands of the day. Portraits, sketches, speeches 1943–1982 . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1983
  • Switzerland without an army? A palaver . Limmat, Zurich 1989
  • Switzerland as a home? Trials over 50 years . Edited and with an afterword by Walter Obschlager . Suhrkamp (White Program Switzerland), Frankfurt am Main 1990


  • Santa Cruz . A romance . Schwabe, Basel 1947 (written 1944) (first performance on March 7, 1946 at the Zurich Schauspielhaus , director: Heinz Hilpert ).
  • Now they are singing again . Attempt a requiem . Schwabe, Basel 1946 (world premiere on March 29, 1945 at the Zürcher Schauspielhaus, director: Kurt Horwitz ).
  • The Great Wall of China . A farce . Schwabe, Basel 1947 (world premiere on October 10, 1946 at the Zurich Schauspielhaus, director: Leonard Steckel ).
  • When the war was over . Acting . Schwabe, Basel 1949 (world premiere on January 8, 1949 at the Zurich Schauspielhaus, director: Kurt Horwitz).
  • Count Öderland . A game in ten pictures . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1951 (world premiere on February 10, 1951 at the Zurich Schauspielhaus, director: Leonard Steckel).
  • Don Juan or The Love of Geometry . A comedy in five acts . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1953 (world premiere on May 5, 1953 at the same time at the Zurich Schauspielhaus, director: Oskar Wältin , and at the Berlin Schillertheater, director: Hans Schalla ).
    • New version: Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1962 (first performance on September 12, 1962 at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus, director: Ulrich Erfurth )
  • Biedermann and the arsonists . A lesson without teaching. With an aftermath . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1958 (world premiere on March 29, 1958 at the Zurich Schauspielhaus, director: Oskar Wältin).
    • (World premiere of the aftermath on September 28, 1958 at the Städtische Bühnen Frankfurt, director: Harry Buckwitz )
  • The great rage of Philipp Hotz . A sketch . In: hortulus 32, issue 2/1958 (illustrated two-month publication for new poetry), ed. by Hans Rudolf Hilty (world premiere on March 29, 1958 at the Zürcher Schauspielhaus, director: Oskar Wältin).
  • Andorra . Piece in twelve pictures . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1961 (world premiere on November 2nd, 3rd and 4th, 1961 at the Zürcher Schauspielhaus, director: Kurt Hirschfeld ).
  • Biography: a game . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1967 (world premiere on February 1, 2 and 3, 1968 at the Zurich Schauspielhaus, director: Kurt Hirschfeld).
  • Triptych . Three scenic pictures . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1978 (world premiere on October 9, 1979, Center dramatique de Lausanne, director: Michel Soutter ).

Radio plays and film templates

  • 1946: Now they are singing again. Attempt of a Requiem - Director: Theodor Mühlen (radio play - Berliner Rundfunk )
  • Rip van Winkle . Radio play (first broadcast in 1953). First separate edition: Reclam, Stuttgart 1969
    • First printing in: Chalk lines into the unknown . Twelve German radio plays after 1945, ed. v. Gerhard Prager . Modern book club, Darmstadt 1960
  • Mr. Biedermann and the arsonists . With an afterword by CE Lewalter, Hans Bredow-Institut, Hamburg 1955 (= first print of the radio play broadcast on Bayerischer Rundfunk in March 1953)
    • Mr. Biedermann and the arsonists. Rip van Winkle . Two radio plays. Suhrkamp (st 599), Frankfurt am Main 1980, ISBN 3-518-37099-5
  • Zurich - transit . Sketch of a film ., Suhrkamp (es 161), Frankfurt am Main 1966


  • Pieces . 2 volumes. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1962
    • I: Santa Cruz. Now they are singing again. The Great Wall of China. When the war was over. Count Öderland
    • II: Don Juan or The Love of Geometry. Biedermann and the firestarters. The great rage of Philipp Hotz. Andorra
  • Collected works in chronological order. Anniversary edition 1931–1985 , ed. v. Hans Mayer . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1976 (volumes 1 to 6) and 1986 (volume 7)
    • Volume 1: 1931-1944 . Small prose writings. Leaves from the bread sack. Juerg Reinhart. The difficult or J'adore ce qui me brûle. Am or the trip to Beijing
    • Volume 2: 1944-1949 . Santa Cruz. Now they are singing again. The Great Wall of China. When the war was over. Small prose writings. Diary 1946–1949
    • Volume 3: 1949-1956 . Count Öderland. Don Juan or The Love of Geometry. Small prose writings. The layman and architecture. attention: Switzerland. Quieter. Rip van Winkle
    • Volume 4: 1957-1963 . Homo faber. Small prose writings. Mr. Biedermann and the arsonists. Biedermann and the firestarters. With an aftermath. The great rage of Philipp Hotz. Andorra
    • Volume 5: 1964-1967 . My name is Gantenbein. Small prose writings. Zurich transit. Biography: a game
    • Volume 6: 1968-1975 . Diary 1966–1971. Wilhelm Tell for the school. Small prose writings. Service booklet. Montauk
    • Volume 7: 1976-1985 . Small prose writings. Triptych. Man appears in the Holocene. Bluebeard
      • Paperback edition: 12 volumes in cassette (text identical to volumes 1–6), Suhrkamp (= edition suhrkamp), Frankfurt am Main 1976; new in 7 volumes 1986: ISBN 978-3-518-06533-4
  • The dream of the Locarno pharmacist. Stories. 1978
  • Novels, stories, diaries . With an afterword by Volker Hage . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2008. ISBN 3-518-42005-4

Published posthumously


Investigations into the work
  • Heinz Ludwig Arnold : What am I? About Max Frisch. Wallstein, Göttingen 2002, ISBN 3-89244-529-X , 72 pp.
  • Heinz Ludwig Arnold (Ed.): Text + kritik 47/48 , 3rd expanded edition 1983, ISBN 3-88377-140-6 , 152 pp.
  • Thomas Beckermann (Ed.): About Max Frisch I. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1971, ISBN 3-518-10852-2 , 298 pp.
  • Hellmuth Karasek : Max Frisch. Friedrich's playwright of the world theater, Volume 17. Friedrich Verlag, Velber 1974, 130 pp.
  • Gerhard P. Knapp (Ed.): Max Frisch. Aspects of the stage work. Peter Lang, Bern 1979, ISBN 3-261-03071-2 , 517 pp.
  • Gerhard P. Knapp (Ed.): Max Frisch. Aspects of the prose work. Peter Lang, Bern 1978, ISBN 3-261-02996-X , 367 pp.
  • Hans Mayer : Fresh and Dürrenmatt. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1992, ISBN 3-518-22098-5 , 184 pp.
  • Klaus Müller-Salget: Max Frisch. Literary knowledge. Reclam, Stuttgart 1996, 140 pp., ISBN 978-3-15-015210-2 .
  • Jürgen H. Petersen: Max Frisch. Realities for literature. Metzler (Metzler Collection, Volume 173), Stuttgart 1978; 3rd act. A. 2002, ISBN 3-476-13173-4 , 231 pp.
  • Marcel Reich-Ranicki : Max Frisch. Essays. Ammann, Zurich 1991, ISBN 3-250-01042-1 , 125 pp.
  • Albrecht Schau (Ed.): Max Frisch - Contributions to an impact history. Becksmann, Freiburg 1971, 360 pp.
  • Walter Schmitz : Max Frisch: The Work (1931–1961). Studies on tradition and processing traditions. Peter Lang, Bern 1985, ISBN 3-261-05049-7 , 455 pp.
  • Walter Schmitz: Max Frisch: Das Spätwerk (1962–1982). An introduction. Francke, Tübingen 1985, ISBN 3-7720-1721-5 , 188 pp.
  • Walter Schmitz (Ed.): Max Frisch. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1987, ISBN 3-518-38559-3 , 422 pp.
  • Walter Schmitz (Ed.): About Max Frisch II. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1976, ISBN 3-518-10852-2 , 567 pp.
  • Alexander Stephan : Max Frisch. CH Beck, Munich 1983, ISBN 3-406-09587-9 , 178 pp.
Materials and miscellaneous



  • Conversations in old age . Directed by Philippe Pilliod. Switzerland 1985 (142 min. From 27 hours of video material)
  • If there weren't any literature ... Keywords about Max Frisch . Director: Peter K. Wehrli . Switzerland 1998 (57 min.)
  • Max Frisch, Citoyen , director: Matthias von Gunten (Switzerland 2008, 94 min.)

Sound recordings and audio books

  • Heinz Ludwig Arnold : Max Frisch. Life and work . The Hörverlag, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-89584-576-0
  • Max Frisch - Friedrich Dürrenmatt. Correspondence. Kein & Aber, Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 978-3-0369-1506-7 .
  • “Don't get wise, stay angry”. A portrait in original shots. Max Frisch. The Hörverlag, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-86717-688-0 .
  • Max Frisch speaks. Speeches and a conversation with Hans Ulrich Probst. Christoph Merian Verlag, 2011, ISBN 978-3-85616-453-9 .
  • Heinz Ludwig Arnold: My conversations with writers 1974–1977. Quartino, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-86750-088-3 (including a 3.5-hour interview with Frisch).

Web links

Commons : Max Frisch  - Collection of images, videos and audio files



Individual evidence

  1. The data given in the biography section is, if not marked separately, taken from Lioba Waleczek: Max Frisch.
  2. ^ Lioba Waleczek: Max Frisch. Page 21.
  3. a b Lioba Waleczek: Max Frisch. Page 23.
  4. ^ Lioba Waleczek: Max Frisch. Page 36.
  5. ^ Lioba Waleczek: Max Frisch. Page 39.
  6. In an interview from 1978 Frisch said: "Falling in love with a Jewish girl in Berlin before the war saved me, or made it impossible for me, to embrace Hitler or any form of fascism." I fell in love with a Jewish girl before the war, saved me from it, or made it impossible for me to greet Hitler or any kind of fascism. ”Quoted from: Alexander Stephan: Max Frisch. In Heinz Ludwig Arnold (ed.): Critical lexicon for contemporary German-language literature 11th subsequent delivery, edition text + kritik , status 1992.
  7. Urs Bircher: From the slow growth of an anger: Max Frisch 1911–1955 , pp. 70–73
  8. Ursula Priess: Fall through all mirrors. An inventory . Ammann, Zurich 2009, 178 pages, ISBN 978-3-250-60131-9 .
  9. ^ Report of the jury meeting on August 9, 1943. In: Schweizerische Bauzeitung, Vol. 121/122 (1943), issue 8, p. 94.
  10. ^ Claude Lichtenstein: The architecture of the bath Letzigraben . In: Ulrich Binder, Pierre Geering (Ed.): Letzigraben outdoor pool . Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Zurich 2007, ISBN 978-3-08-323378-7 , p. 97-104 .
  11. Urs Bircher: From the slow growth of an anger: Max Frisch 1911–1955 . Page 220.
  12. Urs Bircher: From the slow growth of an anger: Max Frisch 1911–1955 . Page 211.
  13. ^ Lioba Waleczek: Max Frisch. Page 70.
  14. ^ Lioba Waleczek: Max Frisch. Pages 72–73.
  15. Julian Schütt : Max Frisch. Biography of an ascent. Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2011 ISBN 978-3-518-42172-7 , p. 400.
  16. ^ Lioba Waleczek: Max Frisch. Page 74.
  17. Urs Bircher: From the slow growth of an anger: Max Frisch 1911–1955. Page 104.
  18. Walter Schmitz: Commentary . In: Max Frisch: Homo faber . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1998, ISBN 3-518-18803-8 , p. 255.
  19. ^ Lioba Waleczek: Max Frisch. Page 101.
  20. a b Volker Hage: He was never a fig . In: Der Spiegel . No. 10 , 2011 ( online ).
  21. Max Frisch: Ignorance as State Protection. Edited by David Gugerli and Hannes Mangold; ISBN 978-3-518-42490-2 . Excerpts: The file F. - Max Frisch on his fiche and Swiss state security in: NZZ -Geschichte , No. 3, October 2015, p. 23 ff; Comment on ignorance as state protection. Why Max Frisch was very angry while reading his fiche on p. 37 f.
  22. ^ Neue Zürcher Zeitung : An awareness of what is missing ( Memento of February 13, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) February 10, 2007.
  23. ^ Rolf Kieser: The diary as an idea and structure in Max Frisch's work. In: Walter Schmitz (Ed.): Max Frisch. Materials. Suhrkamp, ​​1987. ISBN 3-518-38559-3 . Page 21.
  24. ↑ The secretary finds an unknown Max Frisch diary ., accessed on August 14, 2009.
  25. Alexander Stephan: Max Frisch. In Heinz Ludwig Arnold (Hrsg.): Critical lexicon for contemporary German literature 11. Subsequent delivery, Edition text + kritik, status 1992. Page 21.
  26. a b Sybille Heidenreich: Max Frisch. My name is Gantenbein. Montauk. Quieter. Investigations and Notes. Joachim Beyer Verlag, 2nd edition 1978. ISBN 3-921202-19-1 . Page 126.
  27. ^ A b Rolf Kieser: The diary as an idea and structure in Max Frisch's work. In: Walter Schmitz (Ed.): Max Frisch. Materials. Suhrkamp, ​​1987. ISBN 3-518-38559-3 . Page 18.
  28. ^ Friedrich Dürrenmatt: "Stiller", novel by Max Frisch. Fragment of a criticism . In: Thomas Beckermann (Ed.): About Max Frisch. Suhrkamp, ​​1971. Pages 8–9.
  29. Heinz Ludwig Arnold: What am I? About Max Frisch , p. 17.
  30. Walburg Schwenke: What am I? - Thoughts on Max Frisch's early work . In: Walter Schmitz (Ed.): Max Frisch, pp. 70–88.
  31. Alexander Stephan: Max Frisch , p. 26.
  32. ^ Heinz Ludwig Arnold: Conversations with writers . Beck, Munich 1975, ISBN 3-406-04934-6 , p. 11.
  33. Heinz Ludwig Arnold: Conversations with Writers , p. 24.
  34. Alexander Stephan: Max Frisch , p. 68.
  35. Klaus Müller-Salget: Max Frisch. Literature Knowledge, pp. 88-89.
  36. Alexander Stephan: Max Frisch , p. 89.
  37. Volker Hage: Max Frisch . Rowohlt (rm 616), Reinbek 2006, ISBN 3-499-50616-5 , pp. 119-120.
  38. Volker Hage: Max Frisch 2006, p. 125.
  39. Manfred Jurgensen: Max Frisch. The dramas . Francke, Bern 1976, ISBN 3-7720-1160-8 , p. 10.
  40. Volker Hage: Max Frisch 2006, p. 78.
  41. ^ Heinz Ludwig Arnold: Conversations with writers , p. 35.
  42. Klaus Müller-Salget: Max Frisch. Literature Knowledge, pp. 38–39.
  43. Hellmuth Karasek: Max Frisch , pp. 13-15, 98-99.
  44. Jürgen H. Petersen: Max Frisch , p. 28.
  45. Walter Schenker : The language of Max Frisch in the tension between dialect and written language . De Gruyter, Berlin 1969, pp. 10-19.
  46. Max Frisch: Stiller . In: Collected works in chronological order. Third volume . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1998, p. 436.
  47. Max Frisch: Diary 1946–1949 . In: Collected works in chronological order. Second volume . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1998, pp. 378-379.
  48. Werner Stauffacher: Language and Secret . In: Walter Schmitz (Ed.): Materials on Max Frisch "Stiller". First volume . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1978, ISBN 3-518-06919-5 , p. 58.
  49. Max Frisch: Diary 1946–1949 . In: Collected works in chronological order. Second volume . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1998, p. 601.
  50. Tildy Hanhart: Max Frisch: Chance, role and literary form . Scriptor, Kronberg 1976, ISBN 3-589-20408-7 , pp. 4-7.
  51. Klaus Müller-Salget: Max Frisch . Reclam, Stuttgart 1996, ISBN 3-15-015210-0 , p. 35.
  52. Max Frisch: Diary 1946–1949 . In: Collected works in chronological order. Second volume . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1998, ISBN 3-518-06533-5 , p. 374.
  53. See Hans Jürg Lüthi: Max Frisch. “You shouldn't make yourself a portrait.” Francke, Munich 1981, ISBN 3-7720-1700-2 , pp. 7-10. For the two categories p. 16–50 and p. 51–103.
  54. Max Frisch: My name is Gantenbein . In: Collected works in chronological order. Fifth volume . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1998, p. 68.
  55. Max Frisch: Diary 1946–1949 . In: Collected works in chronological order. Second volume , p. 488.
  56. Max Frisch: Stiller . In: Collected works in chronological order. Third volume . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1998, p. 417.
  57. See Hans Jürg Lüthi: Max Frisch. “You shouldn't make an image of yourself,” pp. 10–15.
  58. Claus Reschke: Life as a Man. Contemporary Male-Female Relationships in the Novels of Max Frisch . Peter Lang, New York 1990, ISBN 0-8204-1163-9 , pp. 341, 350, 361-364.
  59. Mona Knapp: "A woman is a person before you love her, sometimes also afterwards ..." Critical aspects of the design of women in fresh texts . In: Gerhard P. Knapp (Ed.): Max Frisch. Aspects of the stage work . Peter Lang, Bern 1979, ISBN 3-261-03071-2 , pp. 73-105.
  60. Max Frisch: Don Juan or The Love of Geometry . In: Collected works in chronological order. Third volume , p. 144.
  61. Karin Struck : The writer and women . In: Walter Schmitz (Ed.): Max Frisch , Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1987, ISBN 3-518-38559-3 , pp. 11-16.
  62. Max Frisch: Diary 1966–1971 In: Collected works in chronological order. Sixth volume . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1998, pp. 64, 107, 131.
  63. Cornelia Steffahn: Aging, dying and death in the late work of Max Frisch. Dr Kovač, Hamburg 2000, ISBN 3-8300-0249-1 , pp. 1–6, 70–71, 226–233.
  64. Max Frisch: Diary 1946–1949 . In: Collected works in chronological order. Second volume , p. 632.
  65. Sonja Rüegg: I don't hate Switzerland, I hate mendacity. The image of Switzerland in Max Frisch's works “Graf Öderland”, “Stiller” and “achtung: die Schweiz” and its contemporary criticism . Chronos, Zurich 1998, ISBN 978-3-905312-72-0 , pp. 109-117.
  66. Max Frisch: Switzerland as home? In: Collected works in chronological order. Sixth volume . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1998, p. 517.
  67. Cf. Bettina Jaques-Bosch: Critique and Melancholy in Max Frisch's Work. On the development of a dichotomy typical of Swiss literature. Peter Lang, Bern 1984, ISBN 3-261-03436-X , pp. 136-139.
  68. ^ Hans Ulrich Probst: Between resignation and republican age radicalism. Traces of the citoyen Max Frisch in the late work. In: Daniel de Vin: I like life - meeting Max Frisch . LTB Brussels 1992, ISBN 90-6828-003-1 , p. 27.
  69. ^ A b Heinz Ludwig Arnold: Conversations with writers . Beck, Munich 1975, ISBN 3-406-04934-6 , p. 33.
  70. Max Frisch: On "Graf Öderland" . In: Collected works in chronological order. Third volume . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1998, p. 90.
  71. See section: Jürgen H. Petersen: Max Frisch , pp. 183-185.
  72. Volker Hage: Max Frisch 2006, p. 63.
  73. Walter Schmitz: Commentary . In: Max Frisch: Homo faber . Suhrkamp BasisBibliothek 3. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1998, ISBN 3-518-18803-8 , p. 261.
  74. Volker Hage: Max Frisch 2006, pp. 78, 81.
  75. Jürgen H. Petersen: Max Frisch , pp. 183-184.
  76. Hans Mayer: Frisch and Dürrenmatt , pp. 8–9.
  77. a b Heinz Ludwig Arnold: What am I? About Max Frisch , p. 64.
  78. ^ Heinz Ludwig Arnold: Max Frisch and Friedrich Dürrenmatt. Two ways of literary articulation . In: Acta Universitatis Wratislaviensis 441/36 (1980), p. 8.
  79. ^ Andreas Isenschmid: Stiller's children . In: Die Zeit of October 8, 1998.
  80. To section: Walter Schmitz: Max Frisch im Werkdialog. Contemporary writers from three German literatures about a Swiss author. In: Bart Philipsen, Clemens Ruthner, Daniel de Vin (eds.): What remains? Ex-territorialization in German-language prose since 1945 . Francke, Tübingen 2000, ISBN 3-7720-2748-2 , pp. 106-115, 119.
  81. Dieter Lattmann (ed.): Kindler's literary history of the present: The literature of the Federal Republic of Germany . Kindler, Munich 1973, ISBN 3-463-22001-6 , p. 234.
  82. Jürgen H. Petersen: Max Frisch , pp. 185–186.
  83. Frank Göbler (Ed.): Max Frisch in the Soviet Union. Reception materials . Liber, Mainz 1991, ISBN 3-88308-057-8 , pp. XIII-XV.
  84. ^ Sigrid Bauschinger : The American Reception of Contemporary German Literature . In: Detlef Junker (Ed.): The United States and Germany in the Era of the Cold War, 1945–1990. A handbook. Volume 2, 1968-1990 . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2004, ISBN 0-521-83420-1 , p. 323.
  85. Jürgen H. Petersen: Max Frisch , pp. 186-192.
  86. ^ Adolf Muschg : Hunger for Format . In: Siegfried Unseld (Ed.): Encounters. A commemorative publication for Max Frisch on his seventieth birthday , pp. 166–167.
  87. Marcel Reich-Ranicki: Max Frisch , p. 110.
  88. Heinz Ludwig Arnold: What am I? About Max Frisch , p. 16.
  89. Max Frisch: Diary 1946–1949 . In: Collected works in chronological order. Second volume . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1998, pp. 648-693.
  90. The misfortune. Internet Movie Database , accessed June 8, 2015 .
  91. Max Frisch, Journal I – III. Internet Movie Database , accessed June 8, 2015 .
  92. Bluebeard. Internet Movie Database , accessed June 8, 2015 .
  93. See section: Alexander J. Seiler : Too cinematic for the film? In: Luis Bolliger (Ed.): Now: max frisch , pp. 127-134.
  94. Holocene. Internet Movie Database , accessed June 8, 2015 .
  95. Volker Schlöndorff's "Return to Montauk", May 10, 2017, accessed May 11, 2017.
  96. Roman Bucheli : Max Frisch goes Hollywood - and nobody notices . In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung from May 26, 2017.
  97. Hartmut von Hentig, "Truth Work" and Peace
  98. Next to the Max-Frisch-Platz is a temporary solution . In: Lokalinfo from February 27, 2017.
  99. Martin Krumbholz : Review of the biography of Julian Schütt Deutschlandradio, May 15, 2011
  100. Wolfgang Schneider: Julian Schütt: Max Frisch: In every zero hour he feels in his element . In: FAZ.NET . ISSN  0174-4909 ( [accessed December 19, 2020]).
  101. Roman Bucheli: The Citizen Actor | NZZ. Retrieved December 19, 2020 .
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on February 26, 2011 in this version .